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Deep Rivers

Docent Tenea Wilborn will lead the “Deep Rivers” tour at Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion at 200 W. Tulpehocken St. in Germantown. The ZOOM tour introduces visitors to the lives, stories and achievements of 19th century Black entrepreneurs, intellectuals and artisans.

Posted Friday, October 2, 2020 10:04 am

by Len Lear

The Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion at 200 W. Tulpehocken St. in Germantown just announced that their new interpretive docent-led tour, “Deep Rivers,” is now live via ZOOM. Their docents, Tenea Wilborn and John Brown take you virtually through the museum highlighting the lives, stories and achievements of great 19th century Black entrepreneurs, intellectuals and artisans with soundscapes and images. Learn about African Americans Francis Johnson, John Trower, Julian Abele, Eliza Grier, Abby Fisher, Ebenezer Bassett, Elizabeth Keckley and others.

Tenea Wilborn is a lifelong West Oak Lane resident and graduate of Cardinal Dougherty High School and Community College of Philadelphia in 2001 with an Associate's in Applied Science-Health Information Technology. She graciously agreed to answer questions about her own background and about “Deep Rivers”:

  • I have never seen the name Tenea before. Does it have a special meaning?

“When my mother was pregnant with me, she told her best friend that I would not be ordinary; therefore, she didn't want to give me an ordinary name. As far as I am aware, it doesn't have a special meaning, but it was special to my mom. Once I realized why she named me Tenea, it became special to me.”

  • What jobs have you had since you got out of school?

“I have worked in health care since I graduated. I currently work for a home care agency.”

  • How long have you been a docent for the Deep Rivers tour?

“The short answer is six months ... The pandemic brought it to a halt, but it started again virtually on Sept. 27.”

  • What is it about Deep Rivers that made you want people to know about it?

“I have a passion for telling the stories of unknown or lesser known African Americans. I am a history buff, and being a docent is a great way for me to channel my passion.”

  • What have you learned from Deep Rivers that you did not know before?

“I did not know that one of the architects of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Central Library was a Black man. I grew up in this city, been to both places and did not know that.”

  • Who is the historical person on the tour you most like to talk about? Why?

“I would have to say Dr. Eliza Grier, who obviously was passionate about her work and clear about her life's calling. She picked cotton every other year to pay her school tuition! That is perseverance! I don't want to divulge too many details because I want people to attend the tour.”

  • What is your ambition for the future?

“My main ambition is to walk in my purpose. I believe my purpose is to educate, uplift and inspire through writing and storytelling.”

  • How has the pandemic affected your life?

“It has affected the way I live and work. I now work virtually, which has been a major change. I feel like it's robbed me of time with my extended family. I've lost family members, and it's affected the grieving process. We couldn't have a repast or see everyone in person. My family reunion and other events were cancelled.”

  • What is the best advice you have ever received?

“My grandmother used to say, 'If you're not going to help me, I'm not going to let you hinder me.' Those words always come to mind whenever I encounter negative people.”

  • What is the hardest thing you ever had to do?

“The hardest thing was burying my mother.”

  • What person has had the greatest impact on your life? Why?

“My maternal grandmother. She laid the spiritual foundation for my life. My faith is what keeps me grounded.”

  • If you could meet and spend time with anyone on earth, living or dead, who would it be and why?

“There are so many people. At this moment in time, I would have to say Mrs. Ida Wells-Barnett. She was a fearless journalist and civil rights activist. Given today's climate, it would be good for me to glean knowledge from someone who wasn't afraid to stand up for her rights.”

The Deep Rivers tour will be given via Zoom on Sundays, Oct. 11 and Nov. 8, both at 1:30 p.m. Cost: $5. More information at Len Lear can be reached at

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